#Occupied: Reports From the Front Lines…


WEEKLY ROUNDUP OF OCCUPY MOVEMENT NEWS

Mexico City: #Occupied. Photo: Miguel Angel Guzman

This week in Occupy, there was an outpouring of solidarity for Greece, Ric Santorum got mic-checked in Tacoma and the NYPD continued to rack up lawsuits as a result of its thuggery.

#As Greece faced a second bailout, its citizenry continued to protest the government’s severe austerity measures. Occupiers everywhere took to the streets in solidarity. In Berlin, militants from several groups organized protests in front of the Greek embassy and Occupy Berlin organized protests at the Berlinale International Film Festival.

#Stop-and-frisks performed by the NYPD increased 14 percent in 2011; 87 percent of those stopped were black or Hispanic.

Occupy Tampa

#Anthony Bologna, A.K.A. Tony Baloney, the pepper-spraying New York cop, is being sued by the unarmed women he sprayed during a demonstration in September in an incident that brought Occupy Wall Street to global prominence.

Secret Crying Places


From GENE LOGSDON
The Contrary Farmer 

I was up in the haymow throwing hay down to the sheep the morning after our grandson scored the winning points at the buzzer in a high school basketball game. It had been a thrilling moment in our lives, of course, and I was still riding high on the memory. I happened to look over in the corner of the loft and saw lying there in the corner, a basketball, now partially deflated. Nearby the old homemade banking board hung from the wall with cobwebs streaming down from the hoop. Over the last decade, there is no telling how many hours Grandmother and I played there with Evan and his brother, Alex. I joked that I had taught the boys everything they know about the game but the truth was just the opposite. Nevertheless, I couldn’t help wondering if all that dribbling, passing, and shooting might have contributed to Evan’s dramatic drive to the basket with just four seconds left in the game. And yes, as I sat there on a bale, staring at the old deflated basketball, I was crying my eyes out.

My barn has often been the place I go to cry. No one can see me there except the cats. We must never let the young people know about secret crying places. Perhaps oddly, I go there to cry more over happy events than sad ones. I went there to cry when our daughter and then our son grew upMore...and left home as they must do, to start their own families. Now the grandchildren too will leave, nevermore to ripple that old basketball net, and I will go to the barn to weep even as I cheer them on.

I knew I needed a secret crying place when my mother died. We were living the suburban life then, but had managed to turn our big backyard into a kind of secluded garden with a chicken coop at the center of it.

Occupy and The Commons…


From DAVID BOLLIER
Bollier.com

The Occupy movement is beginning to discover the commons, and the result could be a rich and productive collaboration.  This was the lesson that I took from a three-day conference, “Making Worlds:  A Forum on the Commons,” hosted by Occupy Wall Street in Brooklyn this past weekend. Rarely have I seen so many ordinary people from diverse backgrounds embrace the commons idea with such ease and enthusiasm.

There was a certain cosmic appropriateness that this gathering was held in a church meeting hall, the Church of the Ascension in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.  This is the kind of humble, out of the way setting that gave rise to the civil rights movement 50-60 years ago.  Church basements virtually require us to shed our pretensions and credentials, and to get real with each other.  As they say in the Occupy world, this was a “truth event” – an occasion meant to rip a hole in the fabric of mainstream culture and provoke some deep and honest reflection on the truth.

Can the commons paradigm take us to higher ground?  For the 100-plus people who showed up, the forum was an occasion to consider how the commons can open up new vistas in “alternative economies, open source, education, environment, technology, labor, politics, race, gender, sexuality and more.”  In typical Occupy style, the meetings were run in a fairly loose fashion; it was not always clear who was “running” the meeting because many people intervened at various times.

And yet things never got out of hand, and I cannot recall a meeting of this size that was richer, more provocative and constructive. People really listened to each other.  People actively invited everyone to speak out, especially those who were more reticent.  Your professional credentials

David Foster Wallace: The Big, Uncut Interview (2003)…


From OPEN CULTURE

In 2003, an interviewer from German public television station ZDF sat down with novelist David Foster Wallace in a hotel room. The ensuing conversation, whose raw, unedited 84 minutes (find links to the complete interview below) made it to the internet after Wallace’s suicide, remains the most direct, expansive, and disarmingly rough-hewn media treatment of his themes, his personality, and the fascinating (if at times chilling) feedback loop between them. You can also experience this conversation in short, thematically organized clips; above, we have “David Foster Wallace on Political Thinking in America.” Wallace expresses his concerns about the strong influence of television ads on elections, which means, he says,”we get candidates who are beholden to large donors and become, in some ways, corrupt, which disgusts the voters, makes them even less interested in politics, less willing to read and do the work of citizenship.” This he sees coupled with an individualistic marketing culture which stokes “that feeling of having to obey every impulse and gratify every desire” — “a strange kind of slavery.”

But as his pained, self-questioning expression reveals — especially when it retreats into strangely endearing post-answer cringes — Wallace did not believe he possessed the cure for, or even a precisely accurate diagnosis of, a sick society. Offering social criticism at a vast remove from the avuncular condemnation of a Noam Chomsky or the raised middle finger of a Bill Hicks, Wallace discusses his fears through a novelist’s consciousness that longs to, as he explains the desire elsewhere in the interview, “jump over the wall of self and inhabit someone else.” When the interviewer tells him about her peers’ frustration at feeling educated but “not being able to do anything with it,” Wallace puts himself in the mind of students who go from studying “the liberal arts: philosophy, classical stuff, languages, all very much about the nobility

I stand with Farmers vs. Monsanto…


From FOOD DEMOCRACY NOW

On January 31, 2012, 55 farmers and plaintiffs traveled to Manhattan to hear oral arguments regarding Monsanto’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit, Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA) vs. Monsanto.

At the heart of the lawsuit is the threat that family farmers face due to genetic trespass on their fields as a result of Monsanto’s genetically modified (GMO) seed and the aggressive enforcement of the biotech seed and chemical giant’s alleged patent rights.

In court, Federal Judge Naomi Buchwald declared that she would rule on the motion to dismiss the trial or move forward in the next 60 days or by March 31st. If you want to
support America’s family farmers, sign the letter to say, “I Stand with Farmers vs. Monsanto!”

Please take a moment to tell America’s farmers why you support them.

I support America’s farmers in their pursuit of justice and their right to grow food without fear and intimidation. It’s time for family farmers to have their day in court and put an end to this unjust harassment.

Sign here
~


Very funny romp through the lives of wanna-be, urbanite, country weekenders who think they’ve got what it takes to “go back to the land.”
~~

Lying Plutocrats, Killing Our Democracy, Pure and Simple…


From GEORGE MONBIOT
The Guardian

Now it’s a straight fight with the billionaires and corporations

Shocking, fascinating, entirely unsurprising: the leaked documents, if authentic, confirm what we suspected but could not prove. The Heartland Institute, which has helped lead the war against climate science in the United States, is funded among others by tobacco firms, fossil fuel companies and one of the billionaire Koch brothers.

It appears to have followed the script written by a consultant to the Republican party, Frank Luntz, in 2002. “Should the public come to believe that the scientific issues are settled, their views about global warming will change accordingly. Therefore, you need to continue to make the lack of scientific certainty a primary issue in the debate.”

Luntz’s technique was pioneered by the tobacco companies and the creationists: teach the controversy. In other words, insist that the question of whether cigarettes cause lung cancer, natural selection drives evolution or burning fossil fuels causes climate change is still wide open, and that both sides of the “controversy” should be taught in schools and thrashed out in the media.

The leaked documents appear to show that, courtesy of its multi-millionaire donors, the institute has commissioned a global warming curriculum for schools, which teaches that “whether humans are changing the climate is a major scientific controversy” and “whether CO2 is a pollutant is controversial.”

The institute has claimed that it is “a genuinely independent source of research and commentary” and that “we do not take positions in order to appease or avoid losing support from individual donors”.

Rosalind Peterson: Mendocino County Billboard Pollution…


From ROSALIND PETERSON
Agriculture Defense Coalition

It is time for Mendocino County to take stock of the ever-increasing number and size of ugly billboards that are destroying the wonderful views here in Mendocino County.

If tourism is to increase we need to have a decrease in the number and size of unsightly billboards rather than increasing numbers. Thus, the County billboard ordinance, rules, and regulations should be upgraded in order to attract tourism here and also to enhance the beauty of Mendocino County.

Action Items:

  1. All current billboards should be inspected to make sure that the size of the billboards in our county have not been increasing with additions in the last 10 years. Any billboards that have increased in width, height or length should be brought back into compliance by fines levied by the County Planning Department. It appears that extensions on the sides, tops, and width of older billboards have been changed without approval by the Mendocino County Planning Department. (Note the height extension on the billboard in this photograph on U.S. 101.)

Billboard - back side

2. All billboards that have ugly backsides should be removed or upgraded.

Gina Covina: Saving squash seeds…


From GINA COVINA
Laughing Frog Farm
Laytonville

We’ve spent the last week in the heady thrill of garden planning. The process used to be an orgy of seed catalog porn, but now we’re in transition to sustainability, so the first step was identifying the crops we want to grow for seed this year. That list included way more than we can grow ourselves, so we brought our favorite candidates to the Laytonville Seed Swap on Sunday and found growers for them from the ranks of the newly evolving Mendocino Seed Growers Co-op. The near future is looking good for local seed.

Here’s one example. Squash divide themselves into three main species (and a couple more minor ones) and within those species they cross-pollinate like crazy. Between species, no. Cucurbita pepo includes most summer squash, as well as acorn, delicata, and many pumpkins. Cucurbita maxima includes a long list of buttercups, Hubbards, turbans, bananas, and more pumpkins. The third, C. moschata, has the butternuts, cheese, trombetta – and yes, more pumpkins. A gardener without near neighbors can grow one variety from each species and confidently save the seeds without having to resort to hand pollination. Our only C. pepo this year will be Dark Star zucchini, the result of Bill Richards’ many years of breeding work on the Eel River flood plain. Delicious, prolific as the hybrid zucchinis, deep-rooted (Richards grows without irrigation), and cold-tolerant beyond the limits of other zukes.

But we also have

Transition: When they cut Social Security by 40%…


From JOHN ROBB
Resilient Communities

As most of us already know, the Greek government is bankrupt.

So far, it has been forced to cut expenses by 34%.

That means they have already made deep cuts in pension payments, government employee incomes, and government employee headcount.  And they are just getting started.

The Greek economy is in free-fall and likely to set the record for the most severe depression in a modern country so far this Century.

Our collective problem is that the Greek experience will soon seem commonplaces. Almost all of the nations in the West are headed towards a Greek style bankruptcy given current trends. The US deficit alone is running at over a trillion a year with NO end in sight. So, eventual bankruptcy of the US and most of the EU isn’t a question of what is right or just or what could happen in a perfect world.  It’s what is likely to happen.

Given this, the question you should be asking yourself is:  What would happen if the US and the EU cut their budgets as deeply as Greece?  What if there was an across the board budget cut of 40%?

This is an important question since it is almost certain to happen and it will be ugly.  Why?  The number of people that…

  1. currently work for the government,
  2. get a government pension (or military pension),
  3. or get social security/medicare/income support payments

is very large.

So, for planning purposes

Occupy The Neighborhood: How Counties Can Use Land Banks and Eminent Domain


From ELLEN BROWN
The Web of Debt

An electronic database called MERS has created defects in the chain of title to over half the homes in America. Counties have been cheated out of millions of dollars in recording fees, and their title records are in hopeless disarray. Meanwhile, foreclosed and abandoned homes are blighting neighborhoods. Straightening out the records and restoring the homes to occupancy is clearly in the public interest, and the burden is on local government to do it. But how? New legal developments are presenting some innovative alternatives.

John O’Brien is Register of Deeds for Southern Essex County, Massachusetts. He calls his land registry a “crime scene.” A formal forensic audit of the properties for which he is responsible found that:

• Only 16% of the mortgage assignments were valid.
• 27% of the invalid assignments were fraudulent, 35% were “robo-signed,” and 10% violated the Massachusetts Mortgage Fraud Statute.
• The identity of financial institutions that are current owners of the mortgages could be determined for only 287 out of 473 (60%).
• There were 683 missing assignments for the 287 traced mortgages, representing approximately $180,000 in lost recording fees per 1,000 mortgages whose current ownership could be traced.

At the root of the problem is that title has been recorded in the name of a private entity called Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems (MERS). MERS is a mere place holder for the true owners, a faceless, changing pool of investors owning indeterminate portions of sliced and diced, securitized properties.

Todd Walton: Shooting Hoops


From TODD WALTON
UnderTheTableBooks.com
Mendocino

She wanted to be buried in a coffin filled with used paperbacks.” Sherman Alexie

I suppose it’s a good thing we don’t have a basketball court at our house or I might never go anywhere, but if someday housing prices around here fall from insane to merely absurd and we manage to buy our own place, and assuming the house is not on a cliff, I’ll put up a backboard and hoop. In my younger days I had a big sign on the refrigerator that said When In Doubt, Shoot Hoops, and doing so saved my sanity a thousand times. Shooting hoops should not be confused with playing basketball, because one can shoot hoops alone and have an experience more akin to walking meditation than that of a full-blown game of basketball.

We recently watched Smoke Signals, a movie based on the short stories of Sherman Alexie, with a screenplay by Alexie, and we loved it. I hadn’t seen the film since it came out in 1998, and I had forgotten how important basketball is to the story, not in terms of plot, but as a metaphor for the game of life. Smoke Signals is definitely not a basketball movie, nor is it really an American Indian movie, though the film is peopled almost entirely with Indians and set on the Coeur d’Alene reservation. But below the skin, this is a tender and universal story about parents and children and sorrow, and how the unresolved past may impinge on the present and trap us in anger and confusion. Smoke Signals might have been set in Poland or Iraq or San Francisco rather than on the Coeur d’Alene Indian Reservation, but that’s where Sherman Alexie came from, so that’s where the movie takes place, with a brief cameo by the inimitable John Trudell as the reservation radio DJ intoning, “It’s a good day to be indigenous.”

Transition: As our civilization declines, it will increasingly be up to households and communities to provide the basics for ourselves…


From RICHARD HEINBERG
Post Carbon Institute

It is this contest between traditional power elites on one hand, and growing masses of disenfranchised poor and formerly middle-class people attempting to provide the necessities of life for themselves in the context of a shrinking economy, that is shaping up to be the fight of the century.

[Mendo Free Skool offers an alternative to traditional education. With classes like Bicycle Repair, Practical Permaculture, Demystifying Anarchism, and D.I.Y. Movie Making, it's a refreshing variety of completely free classes for people of all ages. Run entirely by volunteers, Mendo Free Skool gives the community an opportunity to share their skills and knowledge. Anyone can teach for the Free Skool, so the quarters take on the flavor of whatever people are interested in at the time. “Classes” take place in homes, cafes, and community centers. A quarterly calendar is available online and in print accompanied by the location and description of each course. Spring Quarter runs March 20th - June 20th. Questions, comments and class submissions can be sent to: MendoFreeSkool@gmail.com -Will Parrish]

1. Prologue

As economies contract, a global popular uprising confronts power elites over access to the essentials of human existence. What are the underlying dynamics of the conflict, and how is it likely to play out?

As the world economy crashes against debt and resource limits, more and more countries are responding by attempting to salvage what are actually their most expendable features—corrupt, insolvent banks and bloated militaries

Coming to our towns? Austerity policy is destroying Greek Society…


From DIMITRI LASCARIS
Real News Network

Heart wrenching personal stories show that Greece should reject austerity deal and pull out of Eurozone

The following is a letter from Dimitri’s sister in Greece:

“Friends of ours have died of heart attacks, stressed to the limit by debt, or worse, the loss of their cars and homes”

Dimitri…the decline in our income and therefore in many facets of our lives began in the fall of 2009. In our family carpentry business, we began to go without work intermittently, but for longer and longer stretches as time progressed. Customers who owed us large amounts of money couldn’t pay even 5% of the balance owing on their account. Our customers of course gave priority to the payment of bank loans they had incurred as first-time homeowners or for the expansion of their businesses, or worse, they gave priority to the payment of credit card debts they had incurred in order to maintain the quality of their life, or simply to secure the basic necessities… rent, water, electricity, health insurance and food. Slowly, cash has became more and more scarce for our customers, and therefore for us.

In Greece, the baby boomer generation has placed tremendous emphasis on education. In a very competitive job market, Greek parents sought to equip their children to secure a job as a civil servant. For that purpose, Greek parents commonly employed ‘frontistiria’ (or supplementary education through tutoring)

A week in the life of the Occupy movement…


From The Occupied Wall Street Journal

This week in Occupy, Wisconsin marked a year of activism by marching on the state capitol, efforts are introduced to rein in NYPD abuses toward Occupy protesters, Sarah Palin got mic-checked and attention turned to #F29, the next big action.

#Protesters gathered on Capitol Square for a “Wisconsin Day” anniversary rally marking a year since Republican Governor Scott Walker’s introduction of a bill to eliminate collective bargaining for most public employees.

#On Monday, about 200 demonstrators from Occupy Oakland gathered for a day of action to protest the arrest of 400 people, including journalists, at the #J28 action, during which police employed tear gas and flash grenades. Predictably, police officers confiscated a loudspeaker from Occupy protesters, prompting a march.

#To avenge #J28, the hacktivist collective Anonymous posted the private information of Oakland city officials online, including phone numbers, addresses, email addresses, salary information (top city officials apparently pull down a quarter of a million a year) and property value information. Among those targeted were mayor Jean Quan, police chief Howard Jordan, Oakland city administrator Deanna Santana, city attorney Barbara Jean Parker and a number of city council members. “We are shocked and disgusted by your behavior,” Anonymous wrote. “Before you commit atrocities against innocent people again, think twice.”

New Rules for Radicals: 10 Ways To Spark Change in a Occupied World


From SARA ROBINSON
AlterNet
Poster discovered thanks to Christina Aanestad

The first rule is this: The world is different now. The rules have changed.

Since Occupy, we all understand this. Nothing works now the way it did even just a couple of years ago. Political tactics that haven’t budged public opinion in years — like petitions and big street demonstrations — are suddenly working again. Narratives that seemed unassailable — like the primacy of free markets and low taxes — are being openly questioned. Doors that used to be closed to us are now opening. The media that once ignored us is now starting to listen. The conservatives are shaken and fumbling, stuck on autopilot and unable to re-route away from their old course even as disaster looms dead ahead. What’s going on here?

What’s going on is that we are (finally!) in the first giddy months of a deep-current sea change in American politics, the kind of realignment that happens once every several decades. This change has put us into a whole new political era, one that runs by an entirely new set of rules — and one in which a great many impossible things may, all of a sudden, become possible.

The reasons for this shift are complex and wonky, and are the stuff of other articles. But we all sense it, and we all want to know what it means.

As a Silicon Valley brat-turned-futurist, I’ve spent a lot of my life in a culture that churned constantly with this kind of upending, unending change.

Young farmers and the future of farming…



Paula Manalo, Adam Gaska – Mendocino Organics CSA

From VICKI LIPSKI
Transition Voice

It’s all in a day’s work for family farmers of the 21st century:  Colony Collapse Disorder, dealing with Monsanto’s threats, global warming disasters, the government crackdown on family farms, genetically-engineered crops.

Where once American plowmen had merely to contend with unpredictable weather, infertile soil, inaccessible water supplies, poverty, accidents and disease, today’s food producers face a further cornucopia of sophisticated and bewildering attacks from all sides. That fewer than one percent of Americans want to wrestle a crop from abused soil, while attempting to anticipate how global warming or ailing honeybees may thwart them, should surprise no one.

Nonetheless, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack is calling for hundreds of thousands of new farmers nationwide.

Assuming a new crop (sorry) of fresh-faced novices can surmount the double whammy of little affordable land and even less capital, what else awaits them, in as uncertain a future as humankind has ever confronted? We’ll consider the “easy” problems first. The 800 pound gorilla – climate change – will just have to wait.

Cole Porter was right: Bees do it – or used to

Back in the early 1990’s, I began subscribing to a beekeeper’s magazine (the title of which I’ve long since forgotten), thinking it could serve as an introduction to my latest enthusiasm. That was a smart move on my part, because the editors

Paula Manalo: Seeds galore…


From PAULA MANALO
Mendocino Organics CSA

“You want to try a new eggplant variety? Look at this one – it’s marbled”

“We’re not growing that one variety of cucumber that was s**t last year. F**k that.”

“This greenhouse tomato is resistant to all these diseases. And this other variety comes in organic.”

“Oh, good, we still have a lot of that seed from last year so we don’t have to buy any.”

“Well, if we grow two rows of cucumbers and two rows of tomatoes in the greenhouse, let’s do basil in the fifth row.”

That’s what the office conversation is full of when we’re preparing our annual giant seed order. With seed catalogs, lists, calculators, pens, and papers around us, sitting on the floor, we get to envision our fields and future harvests. It’s rather exciting. Some farmers and gardeners compare seed catalogs to porn. Leafing through the pages of colorful produce, herbs and flowers, you can’t help salivate over the contentment of a bountiful harvest in the growing season to come. Agronomic info and variety descriptions only enhance the flavor of this vision.

Our hand-drawn maps may be out of proportion on pieces of scrap paper, but with accurate calculations, feedback from CSA members, and mostly experience, we’re able to figure out what seed we need to buy. We’re a bit anxious because cash flow is almost stagnant this time of year, and we know that popular varieties, particularly organic ones, sometimes sell out quickly. We have to act fast and just get the order in. A late catalog in the mail or “seed crop failure” of a favorite variety can be a source of consternation.

After about a month of pouring over our maps, thinking about how we want to rotate our crops, looking at

A country for old men…


From GENE LOGSDON
The Contrary Farmer

Unless you suffer from an overactive bladder as many of us do, you may find this essay a bit on the crude side. But nevermind, you will get there too eventually unless you are lucky. In terms of overactive bladders, there is an advantage to living on a farm that rarely gets mentioned, even though the “fall out” from it is quite significant for society at large. Farms provide owners with a private place far from any bathroom where they can relieve themselves.

You know all the old jokes, even if they aren’t all that funny. How old men develop the habit of checking every building they enter for the location of the bathroom before they do anything else. How the farmer with the round barn had an “accident” as he frantically looked for a secluded corner to pee in.

Until I joined the legion of men with enlarged prostates, I did not appreciate the full meaning of tranquility on the farm. In public, I must keep a furtive eye on the nearest bathroom and make sure I do not move more than a minute or two away from it. If I have to give a speech, I am usually safe beforehand because I am too scared for any bodily function to work no matter what. After the speech, however, if I avoid eye contact and abruptly breeze by you as if I am trying to steal second base, please understand. Even in my office at home, absorbed in writing, I have to make mad dashes for the bathroom. This is another unsung advantage of cell phones. You don’t have to hang up in this situation.

But in the field or garden hoeing, or among the trees sawing and chopping, or in the barn trying to convince my sheep that Lucretius said it all over 2000 years ago, no problem.  Believe me, knowing this adds another dimension to the calming effect that a rural environment can bestow.

But using your farm for a bathroom has social significance too. What if, as in my perfect world, some 50 million Americans (out of 300 million) lived and worked part of the time on their own little farms. Let us say they committed half their bodily waste directly to the soil or to the animal manure bedding in the barn

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